Day 5 of Our Trek: Machu Picchu
As the last day of our Salkantay Trek, we had the option of either hiking up to Machu Picchu at 4am, or waiting for a bus to take us to the top. Since our entire group was exhausted, we all opted to take the bus to the top. So on Halloween we woke up at 3:15am to pack up our gear and check out of our hotel. 6 of us headed to the bus stop and were in line to catch the bus by 4 in the morning. Ramiro met up with us shortly after we got there with some fruit and sandwiches for breakfast. We waited in line for about an hour, and we were soon on a very nice bus to Machu Picchu!
The bus ride took about 30 minutes, and at the front gate there were tons of people waiting to get into Machu Picchu. We saw some people coming from the hiking path and they all looked miserable so I think we made a good decision in taking the bus. We waited in line at the front gate for about 15 minutes and we were soon entering Machu Picchu!
The initial view of Machu Picchu was… disappointing. Disappointing because it was raining and was incredibly foggy.
Our guide Ramiro took us on a tour around the facility and taught us all about Machu Picchu and some additional facts about the Inca culture, and after about an hour and a half some of the fog cleared and we could see how huge Machu Picchu truly was! There were vast terraces around the outside portions which were used for farming, and several buildings and temples throughout. Ramiro said that Machu Picchu would have housed around 100 to 500 people. After our 2 hour tour came to a close, Ramiro said goodbye and wished us luck in our upcoming hike to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain.
8 out of the 10 of us opted to hike Machu Picchu Mountain while the other two hiked Huayna Picchu Mountain. We weren’t allowed to begin the hike until 9am, and we had some time to kill so we explored Machu Picchu a bit with the couple from New Zealand. We walked up to the guard tower, which was literally identified as “the place where you take the classic Machu Picchu picture” and we had a bit of luck with the fog clearing! The views were outstanding, and we even saw some llamas!
Machu Picchu Mountain
After taking some pictures, we began our last long hike up the mountain. The path to the top of Machu Picchu mountain consisted of 2,670 stairs that seemed to go on forever and ever.
We were very exhausted from the 4 prior days of hiking, and this hike seemed to be one of most challenging parts of our whole trek. Maybe it is because we didn’t have Ramiro with us, and we didn’t have any Inca power to power us to the top. After we got to the summit, the surrounding mountains were completely covered in clouds/fog. We waited at the summit with our group in hopes that the clouds would clear, but they never did.
The trek back down was also painful, but the llamas were very close to the trail at the bottom and we got to pet them, so that made up for the painful hike a bit. The llamas were incredibly fluffy, and I really like fluffy soft things. Our group originally told our guide Ramiro we were going to hike back to Aguas Calientes from Machu Picchu, but after our mountain hike we looked at each other and all agreed that we would rather take the bus back down. So we paid for a bus ticket and got on the bus back down to town to get some lunch. We were all starving, so we went to the first restaurant we came across.
The Way Back to Cusco
After lunch, we grabbed our duffel bags that were stored at our hotel, went to happy hour for drinks, and headed to the train station to go back to Cusco. At the train station, there was an expert Peruvian flute player playing random songs which made the wait for the train much shorter. Gerrod gave him a tip, and then we boarded a very nice train that took us to a town called Ollantaytambo.
At Ollantaytambo, we found our van driver who drove us another 2 hours back to Cusco to drop us all off at our respective hostels. 4 of us, including me and Gerrod were dropped of at the Salkantay Trekking office since they stored our luggage for us during our trek. Since it was Halloween there were people everywhere and Plaza De Armas, which we had to cross to get to the office, was completely packed!
Gerrod and I pushed through the crowds with our bags, and we finally checked in to The Point Hostel, which being a party hostel appeared to have a party of its own going on. We quickly dropped our bags off, put on some fresh deodorant (at least I did, I’m not quite sure about Gerrod), and we headed to the Plaza to meet the other members of our group for Halloween celebrations! Gerrod and I decided we were dressed up as dirty hippies for Halloween, and we got offered weed twice on the way to the bar so we must have had pretty convincing costumes.
We met some of the group at Paddy’s Irish Pub, where we had drinks, food, and great conversations before we all decided we wanted to dance. The group ended up at a nightclub called Inka Team nearby in the Plaza de Armas, and danced and drank until around 2 am before saying our hug filled goodbyes.
We ended up with the best hiking group imaginable, and I truly hope we get to see everyone again!
Lauren (and Gerrod)